One of the most egregious outcomes of marijuana prohibition is that many sick people cannot legally access the medicine that works best for them. For many seriously ill people, medical marijuana is the only medicine that relieves their pain and suffering, or treats symptoms of their medical condition, without debilitating side effects. Marijuana has been shown to alleviate symptoms of a huge variety of serious medical conditions including cancer, AIDS, and glaucoma, and is often an effective alternative to synthetic painkillers.
Medical Marijuana Access and Research
Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have passed medical marijuana laws legalizing the use and production of medical marijuana for qualifying patients under state law. However, the medical use of marijuana remains illegal under federal law, and patients in the remaining states are without any legal access at all. Even in states where medical marijuana laws exist, patients and providers are vulnerable to arrest and interference from federal law enforcement.
Marijuana prohibition has also thwarted research within the United States to uncover the best and most effective uses for marijuana as a medicine, making efforts to reform medical marijuana laws particularly difficult.
DPA played a primary role in the passage of medical marijuana laws in nine states, starting with California’s Proposition 215
in 1996. We seek to implement medical marijuana programs in additional states and to expand existing programs to better protect patients’ rights and to improve patient access to their medicine.
The Drug Policy Alliance is committed to increasing the number of states with medical marijuana laws, supporting and improving existing state medical marijuana programs, protecting medical marijuana patients, and ending the federal ban on medical marijuana
so that all patients within the United States have safe access to quality medicine and research into marijuana’s medicinal benefits can move forward.
The acceptance of medical marijuana has implications that extend far beyond helping those suffering from life-threatening diseases. It is one of several factors -- including demographic changes, the financial crisis, and the widely perceived failure of the war on drugs -- reopening the country's 40-year-old on-again, off-again shouting match over whether marijuana should be legalized.
In 1996 DPA spearheaded passage of the nation’s first medical marijuana law. California’s Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act, allows patients to use marijuana for medicinal purposes with a doctor’s recommendation. Despite the federal government’s efforts to stymie Prop. 215 by threatening and shutting down dispensaries, over a dozen other states have legalized medical marijuana since 1996, many of them due to DPA’s efforts.
The principle issue here is whether the marijuana plant should lawfully be transferred from Schedule I to Schedule II of the schedules established by the Controlled Substances Act. Ruling of Drug Enforcement Administration Administrative Law Judge Francis L. Young, "In the Matter of Marijuana Rescheduling," finding that: "Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. By any measure of rational analysis marijuana can be safely used within a supervised routine of medical care."
U.S. Department of Justice: Office of the Deputy Attorney General
This memorandum provides clarification and guidance to federal prosecutors in States that have enacted laws authorizing the medical use of marijuana. These laws vary in their substantive provisions and in the extent of state regulatory oversight, both among the enacting States and among local jurisdictions within those States. Rather than developing different guidelines for every possible variant of state and local law, this memorandum provides uniform guidance to focus federal investigations and prosecutions in these States on core federal enforcement priorities.
For patients and their physicians, this report can serve as a primer for those who are considering using or recommending medical cannabis. For others, this report can serve as an introduction to the broad range of emerging clinical applications for cannabis and its various compounds.
Marijuana and Medicine addresses the science base and the therapeutic effects of marijuana use for medical conditions such as glaucoma and multiple sclerosis. It covers marijuana's mechanism of action, acute and chronic effects on health and behavior, potential adverse effects, efficacy of different delivery systems, analysis of the data about marijuana as a gateway drug, and the prospects for developing cannabinoid drugs. The book evaluates how well marijuana meets accepted standards for medicine and considers the conclusions of other blue-ribbon panels.
"...while the medical marijuana movement has been generating political news, some researchers have been quietly moving in new directions — testing cannabis and its derivatives against a host of diseases. The scientific literature now brims with potential uses for cannabis that extend beyond its well-known abilities to fend off nausea and block pain in people with cancer and AIDS. Cannabis derivatives may combat multiple sclerosis, Crohn's disease and other inflammatory conditions, the new research finds. Cannabis may even kill cancerous tumors."
Antidrug activists say that if the drug is legalized, more people will use it and addiction levels, made worse by the increased potency, will rise too. Legalization advocates note that pot addiction is not nearly as destructive as, say, abuse of alcohol. What would be the effect of legalization or decriminalization on marijuana abuse and addiction?
This report: (1) provides a brief historical perspective on the use of cannabis as medicine; (2) examines the current federal and state-based legal envelope relevant to the medical use of cannabis; (3) provides a brief overview of our current understanding of the pharmacology and physiology of the endocannabinoid system; (4) reviews clinical trials on the relative safety and efficacy of smoked cannabis and botanical-based products; and (5) places this information in perspective with respect to the current drug regulatory framework.
Handouts, reports, briefing papers and other resources collected by the Marijuana Policy Project.